It’s Time to Pick Up Antonio Brown

Next week around this time, you will see a deluge of articles telling you to make a waiver claim for Antonio Brown. People in your league are going to go after him, I promise you that. Lots of FAAB will be spent on him.

There are teams in your league that are 2-4 or 1-5 right now and will see AB as their Hail Mary to getting back in contention. Maybe they’ve had injuries or they’re just not that good at the moment. The point is, fantasy owners in your league are going to be willing to roll the dice on him. Or maybe you’re the 2-4 team that needs to make a major move to turn your season around. Grabbing Antonio Brown off the free agent list is that major move.

His suspension was for the first 8 weeks of the season and we are now in week 7, meaning on Monday, November 2, AB can come back.

Now, he still hasn’t signed with a team, and as far as I can tell there have been no rumors about any specific teams showing interest in him. But I still firmly believe someone will sign him, and we will seem him on the field at some point in the 2020 NFL season. The NFL is just too high stakes for teams in need of WRs to not seriously consider signing him.

People are always looking for “league winners” and “diamonds in the rough” in fantasy football–guys who can take their team to the next level. Well, AB fits that description this season. Of course, don’t assume it’s going to happen–he still has to get signed first and foremost, and even when he does, there’s no guarantee he won’t be extremely rusty after missing a season-and-a-half of football. What about his other legal issues that have yet to be resolved? There’s still a lot of lingering questions.

I’m not denying any of that. Picking him up is a long-shot move, no doubt. The odds that he comes back and ultimately makes a difference on your team are pretty low, I’d say about 25%. But at the moment, he’s only at 4.1% ownership in ESPN leagues. People in your league probably aren’t moving on him right now so he’ll be dirt cheap or even free to pick up. If you have room on your bench for him, there is no reason why you should not at least take a flyer on him. Even if you have the most stacked team imaginable and would never consider starting him, you can at least make sure the other guys in your league can’t use him against you.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the pressing issues: where might he end up when he’s eligible to return?

  • Ravens: Lamar Jackson wants him on the team, and Hollywood Brown is his cousin. Plus, the Ravens need pass-catchers. Lamar really doesn’t have many weapons to throw to outside of Mark Andrews. The Ravens shot down the idea of signing AB before the season, although head coach John Harbaugh said he wouldn’t rule out considering any player if it could help the team. But now that we’re six games into the season and the Ravens humbled by the Chiefs, maybe they’re starting to wonder if perhaps they’re going to need more help in order to get to the Super Bowl. They play in a tough division where Pittsburgh and Cleveland are both vying for a playoff berth. In fact the Ravens are currently in 2nd place behind the undefeated Steelers in the AFC North. The Ravens are going to need to improve if they’re going to make a serious run at the Super Bowl this season.
  • Texans: Let’s face it–Bill O’Brien fucked up royally by trading away DeAndre Hopkins. Over the past five years, the debate over who is the best WR in the league was between Hopkins and AB, essentially. I’m sure a big part of the reason BOB got fired was for getting rid of Hopkins, but luckily for the Texans they can attempt to rectify BOB’s massive blunder by giving Watson AB to throw to. This is a team that was in the AFC Divisional round last season and had a 24-0 lead on Kansas City before choking it away. They just backed up the Brinks truck and made Watson their franchise QB. This is not a team that should be in rebuilding mode. They’re a completely different team since firing BOB, and they were close to handing the Titans their first loss this past Sunday. The Texans should strongly consider signing AB as part of their mid-season turnaround. This would be a fantastic move for fantasy football owners, too. Having DeShaun Watson airing it out to AB? Lethal. However, given all the turmoil this team has gone through this season, would adding Antonio Brown to the mix really be the smartest move? Do they have the strong team culture required to handle a guy like him? That’s doubtful, in my view. But hey, we can dream, right?
  • Colts: TY Hilton looks like a shell of his former self, and their other wideouts are Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson. They’ve got two promising young guys in Parris Campbell (2nd year) and Michael Pittman (rookie), but both of them are on IR currently. Neither are out for the season, and the team hopes to have both back at some point this season, but the point here is there’s a lot of uncertainty for the Colts at the WR position. Might they possibly consider signing AB to give Philip Rivers a quality weapon in the passing game? On paper, it seems like a move that makes sense. But I just don’t see it. Can you really see AB clicking with Philip Rivers? The Colts just don’t seem like an organization that would want anything to do with a guy like Antonio Brown. They strike me as an organization with little tolerance for Drama. Plus, I don’t see a guy like Antonio Brown wanting to move to Indianapolis. Indy is a great city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not an Antonio Brown city. Although, on the other hand, Philip Rivers does love to air it out…
  • Eagles: the most injured roster in the NFL. Plain and simple. Alshon Jeffrey hasn’t played a snap this season, D-Jax has missed all but one game, and rookie first-rounder Jalen Reagor played the first two games but has missed the past four after thumb surgery. As bad as they are at 1-4-1, they are still very much alive in that division. The Cowboys are in first place at 2-4. If anything the Eagles owe it to Carson Wentz to at least strongly consider signing AB. The Eagles have a strong culture within their organization, and a Championship pedigree having won the Super Bowl in 2017. I think they could handle AB.
  • Patriots: As crazy as it sounds for them to sign him after they cut him last year, never count Billy B out of it. The Patriots’ skill players are hot garbage and the bigger problem for them is, they’re mostly healthy. They’re just not any good. At least with the Eagles they know they have some playmakers that will return to them once they heal up; the cavalry is coming for Philly. But not New England. There’s nobody. Cam Newton is out there carrying the team by himself. He’s throwing to a 34-year-old Julian Edelman, underwhelming second-year WR N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd. Let’s put it this way, if the Patriots didn’t already have a dicey history with AB, wouldn’t you consider them overwhelming favorites to sign him? At a certain point, Belichick’s desire to win games will override all other concerns. I’m sure he personally has extra motivation this year to take his team further than Brady’s Buccaneers, but that looks impossible right now given the lack of offensive talent on that roster. Do not rule the Patriots out on giving him a second chance.
  • Seahawks: There were rumblings that the Seahawks were interested in the offseason, as Russ apparently worked out with AB a few times. But with the emergence of DK Metcalf, and of course the rock-solid Tyler Lockett on the other side, Seattle no longer feels like a logical choice to sign AB. They need help on defense, not wide receiver. They’re 5-0 right now and probably won’t want to mess with the team chemistry. I just don’t see this move happening. DK Metcalf might be the best deep threat/big-play WR in the league at this point. Why would they want to mess with Metcalf’s development by bringing in AB? I just don’t see it. They don’t need him.

Of those six teams we just went over, the Ravens, Eagles, Patriots and Texans are the only ones I can realistically see signing him.

I’m going to predict that if he signs with somebody, he signs with the Ravens.

And that’s the caveat: if he signs with a team. The way things work this year with Covid, it’s not quite as easy to bring guys in for workouts. It’s a whole process with tons of protocols and stuff like that. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. If a team thinks he can play, he’ll get signed.

If AB is not signed by week 10, then you cut bait and move on fantasy-wise. No harm done. It’s a low risk, high reward move and I think fantasy owners would be stupid not to pick him up.

I know he has that civil suit still ongoing, but if he’s smart he should just quietly settle it out of court and move past it. As long as he’s not making a scene and acting a fool, the NFL might not see any more reason to further discipline him. I know that’s a tall order when it comes to AB, but maybe the guy did some soul-searching and got his act cleaned up.

Trust me, when your league mates see him on your bench, they’re going to be pissed. Pull a fast one on them and grab him now, before he’s back on most people’s radars.

If you’re still not convinced to pick him up, allow me to jog your memory of just how good this guy was when he was actually playing football. And if you’re already convinced, watch his career highlight reel anyway to get yourself more hyped up for The Return of AB:

Octavian

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